Monthly Archives: September 2013

Rembrandt Flash Mob

What happens when a museum decides to publicize one of its most historic holdings? Rembrandt’s classic painting “The Night Watch” is one of the artist’s best-known works. This humongous 1642 painting hangs in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Featuring a cast of dozens, there is so much going on in the painting that you could study it for hours. It was vandalized three times in the twentieth century, most recently in an acid attack in 1990, but fortunately was successfully restored each time.

For the past ten years, the painting has been displayed in a temporary location while the Rijksmuseum was being refurbished. It was returned to its original gallery this past April. The Rijksmuseum decided that this special event demanded an extraordinary advertising campaign. So they put together a “flash mob” production at a shopping mall. See the wicked cool result in this video:


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Ask A Slave: The Web Series

For nearly ten years, I was a costumed interpreter at Old Sturbridge Village, milking cows, making cheese, dyeing wool, working in gardens, and generally getting messy, dirty, and smelly. It was probably the most fun I’ve ever had at a job. Chatting with the visitors about our work was usually lots of fun, but, as you can imagine, we got our share of annoying and bizarre questions. (By the way, yes, it is hot in those clothes, and yes, we know there are lots of flies on the ceiling.) But it was small potatoes compared to the experiences of Azie Mira Dungey, an actress who portrayed a slave at George Washington’s Mount Vernon home.

Ms. Dungey has turned her experiences into a terrific web series, There are only three episodes so far, but they’re hilarious, informative, and, behind the comedy, really thought-provoking. Not to mention that Ms. Dungey’s character Lizzie Mae is the essence of wicked cool. It’s incredible what people say (well, no, actually, it’s quite credible, based on my own experience). You could not make this stuff up! So check out her site–you’ll be glad you did.

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Mending Horses: Helpful Websites

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Old Sturbridge Village has articles, images, and first-person accounts of life in the 1830s

For articles and links to websites on 19th-century America:

The Circus Historical Society has a great website with tons of articles on circus history, first-person accounts, and pictures.

Picturesque Hampden has a description of the Irish shanties that were built in many milltowns, and includes a picture of a shanty in “the Patch,” an early Irish settlement in Holyoke, Massachusetts (scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the picture).

To see the sort of railroad construction work that Irishmen like Hugh Fogarty did in western Massachusetts during the 1830s and 1840s, check out the Keystone Arches website.

The Duffy’s Cut Project is dedicated to investigating the mysterious deaths of several Irish railroad workers in Pennsylvania – fascinating historic archeological and forensic research!

John Solomon Rarey (1827-1866), is often thought of as the “original horse whisperer.” He was one of the first American horse trainers to promote cruelty-free training methods. A short biography of Rarey and the text of one of his books are on this website.

To see a modern horse whisperer in action, check out the videos on Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling’s youTube channel . I like to imagine that Daniel would have used similar training techniques with the six dancing ponies.

If you’d like to find some of the songs Billy and Mr. Stocking would have been singing, go to the Library of Congress American Memory project website for copies of American sheet music from 1820 to 1860.

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Mending Horses: Bibliography

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Here are just a few of the books I used to research Mending Horses:


Grimsted, David. American Mobbing, 1828-1861: Toward Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Larkin, Jack. The New England Country Tavern. Sturbridge, Massachusetts: Old Sturbridge Village, 2000.

Larkin, Jack. The Reshaping of Everyday Life, 1790-1840. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1988.

Larkin, Jack. Where We Lived: Discovering the Places We Once Called Home. Newtown, Connecticut: The Taunton Press, 2009.

Rorabaugh, W. J. The Craft Apprentice: From Franklin to the Machine Age in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.


Benes, Peter, editor. Itinerancy in New England and New York. Boston University: Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife Annual Proceedings, 1984.

Wright, Richardson. Hawkers & Walkers in Early America. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1927.


Bowker, Nancy. John Rarey: Horse Tamer. London: J.A. Allen, 1996.

Brown, Sara Lowe. Rarey: The Horse’s Master and Friend. Columbus, Ohio: The F.J. Heer Printing Co., 1916.

Hill, Cherry. How to Think Like a Horse. Storey Publishing, 2006.

Miller, Robert M., DVM, and Lamb, Rick. The Revolution in Horsemanship and What It Means to Mankind. Guilford, Connecticut: The Lyons Press, 2005.

Rarey, John S. The Modern Art of Taming Wild Horses. (reprint) Watertown, Minnesota: Nath Thoroughbreds, 1998.

Roberts, Monty. From My Hands to Yours: Lessons from a Lifetime of Training Championship Horses. Solvang, CA: Monty and Pat Roberts, Inc., 2002.

Roberts, Monty. The Man Who Listens to Horses. New York: Random House, 1996.


Ignatiev, Noel. How the Irish Became White. New York: Routledge, 1995.

Mitchell, Brian C. The Paddy Camps: The Irish of Lowell, 1821-61. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2006.


Barnum, P.T. Struggles and Triumphs; or, Forty Years’ Recollections. Buffalo, NY: The Courier Company, 1875.

Croft-Cooke, Rupert, and Cotes, Peter. Circus: A World History. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1976.

Thayer, Stuart. Annals of the American Circus, 1793-1829. Rymack Printing, 1976.

Thayer, Stuart. Traveling Showmen: The American Circus Before the Civil War. Detroit: Astley & Ricketts, 1997

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Got Sea Legs?

Looking for a job that will give you the chance to breathe the sea air and the opportunity to travel? Well, look no further – have I got a job for you! Mystic Seaport is looking for someone to captain the whaling ship Charles W. Morgan. If that isn’t wicked cool, I don’t know what is!

Fortunately, the job description these days does not include signing on for a multi-year voyage a-hunting for the whale. In the final stages of a $7 million restoration, the 172-year-old wooden whaling ship is preparing to embark on a tour of New England ports next summer. A National Historic Landmark, the Morgan last went to sea in 1921, and is the last wooden whaling ship left on the planet.

Not quite ready to handle the responsibilities of captain? The Morgan also needs three mates, ten to twelve certified mariners, and ten additional crew. So get your application in today!

Hauling in the main and reefing the sails not your cup of grog? The Morgan will also be taking on a dozen or so passengers, for those of you lubbers who can’t tell your stem from your stern.

You can read more about the job in The Day and the Springfield Republican

And make sure to visit Mystic Seaport’s website for photos of the Morgan, video of the launch ceremony, and information about the museum’s other programs.

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